Parsley Sauce

Just days after the death of Oral Roberts, Pastor Rod Parsley has given the world the most shameless and risible fund-raising plea seen this side of 1987. The Columbus Dispatch reports:

The Rev. Rod Parsley has issued a desperate plea for money, telling his flock that he is facing a “demonically inspired financial attack” that is threatening his ministry.

…When asked to comment yesterday, Parsley’s World Harvest Church issued a statement saying the recession caused a decline in member giving in 2009, which has led to a fourth-quarter deficit of $3 million despite a 30 percent reduction in the budget.

This year, the church settled for $3.1 million with a family whose son was spanked at its day-care center in 2006, to the point his buttocks and legs were covered with welts and abrasions.

The boy, then 2, said he was spanked with a “knife” by a substitute teacher. His parents, Michael and Lacey Faieta, believe it was a ruler.

The Ohio Court of Appeals opinion can be seen here, and makes for grim reading: the substitute teacher was unqualified, and the only other time he had been left in sole supervision, a few months earlier, another child had mysteriously fractured his skull. In the case of the Faietas, when they tried to ask about how their son had come to have his injuries, they were threatened with a prosecution for criminal tresspass if they returned to the property. Further, the Human Resources Director issued a note to parents about children suffering from a “rash”, and she later

admitted that her focus in conducting the investigation was not to make sure the children in the Cuddle Care program were safe but, instead, “to protect our employees.”

Naturally, the jury could recognise evidence of a cover-up, and awarded punitive damages. While Parsley blames the devil for the outcome of the case – and appears to villify the boy and his parents in the process (“will you help me take back what the devil stole?”) – other religious believers may perhaps take the view that if a supernatural agency can be discerned in all this, it was God intervening to shut down the program and expose the way it was run before a worse tragedy could occur.

Parsley was famously described as “a moral compass, a spiritual guide” by a rather unenthusiastic John McCain last year in a clunkily cynical bid to shore up the Christian Right vote; alas, however, McCain soon regretted his words, when Parsley’s view that the USA was created by God to destroy Islam (“we get off on warfare”) became a subject of general discussion.

So how strapped for cash is Parsley really? We can’t know for sure; MinistryWatch, a Christian website which advises potential donors about the finances of religious organisations, gives Parsley’s Breakthrough Ministries an “F” for transparency, and warns that it

has exhibited an utter disregard for transparency and accountability in its financial operations.

MinistryWatch also explores Parsley’s prosperity theology:

Parsley’s favorite fund-raising appeal, which ties in directly to his “health and wealth” message, is called “planting the seed,” which is a metaphor commonly used by many television evangelists. The basic concept is that if you will give whatever money you have to God (i.e., planting the seed), even if you do not currently have enough to meet your needs, then, by a spiritual law of cause and effect, God becomes obligated to give you a manifold financial return on your investment…At times, Parsley performs a kind of “priestly” rite whereby he invokes the debt-canceling power of God for people who give to his ministry.

This is followed by a quote from a fund-raising letter:

I [Parsley] am going to place your enclosed prayer form on our brazen altar at World harvest Church . . . during our ENOUGH IS ENOUGH DEBT BURNING SERVICE and burn the totality of your debt as a symbol of faith that God will Rebuke the Devourer on your behalf!

“Brazen” is certainly a word that comes to mind when watching Parsley’s begging video; but given Parsley’s supposed ability to fix other people’s finances, perhaps the faithful should remind him of Luke 4:23 rather than reach for the wallet…

(Hat tip: Right Wing Watch)